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Who is Baphomet?
Baphomet is an invented pagan idol that the Knights Templar allegedly worshipped and that subsequently was incorporated into the occult and mystical traditions and writers. Since 1856, the name Baphomet has been associated with the “Sabbatic Goat” image drawn by Éliphas Lévi, which contains binary elements representing the “symbolization of the equilibrium of opposites”
Who is the Knights Templar?
Many of us are familiar with the Knights Templar—or simply, the Templars—a Catholic military order formed in the mid 12th century who rose to surprising heights of power in such a short space of time.
The Knights themselves were often thought to be some of the most skilled warriors in Crusades and donning foreboding armour, those that were not without their distinct white mantles bearing the red cross, they were certainly a force to be reckoned with and not one that you’d want to be on the bad side of.
But most of the Templars weren’t fighters but were instead more like financiers and those more interested in the economic infrastructure throughout not just in their Christian kingdom, but the rest of the world too. In fact, it can be argued that given the global reach of the templars during their century-long operation, that they were the first multinational corporation.
But when the Holy Land was lost and support for the order waned, rumours about the Templars began to circulate, those very rumours which came to cast a most ominous and spine-chilling shadow around this most suspicious group.
In fact, these rumours became so palpable that King Phillip IV of France, who happened to also be in debt to the order, took advantage of the Templars’ decline and seeking to erase his debts, had many of the Templars arrested, tortured, and executed.
After harassing Pope Clement V for long enough, the Pope disbanded the Templar Order, but those rumours that had permeated the air would live long throughout the ages and spur on speculation that the Templars were far more sinister than one might’ve realised… perhaps even, owing to the supernatural.
Amongst those rumours was the idea that the Knights Templar worshipped not the Christian God to whom their operations seemed to revolve around, but instead a more fiendish and hellish deity known as Baphomet.
The Knights Templar and Baphomet
Amongst the crimes that the Templars were accused of, some were more outrageous than others. Accusations of the usual heresy, homosexual activity and spitting and/or urinating on the cross were all quite typical, but the latter of these crimes—the spitting and urinating on the cross—were thought by some historians to have been conducted by the Templars to mentally prepare them for violations they might have been forced to commit should they have been captured.
But interestingly, there exist accounts that spitting on the cross was also a ritual commanded by the cult of Baphomet and that this was seen as an initiation process within the Knights Templar. With this idea, the Templars, or at least a sect of them, were not Christians and were using the image of Christ as a disguise for much more sinister antics.
In his book, The Knights Templar and their Myth, Peter Partner states that one of the main accusations made against the Templars was their worship of the deity Baphomet, but that the description of Baphomet varied from confession to confession, leading many to believe that the Templars who were accused of this were tortured for their admissions until they just made something up.
Some were resolute in their denial of Baphomet and explained that they knew nothing of this deity, but others would confess that they had worshipped the deity and described him as being anything between a severed head to a being with three faces.
Others spoke of it taking a zoomorphic form and possessing limbs and features incongruent with the standardised image of God. Yet despite these accusations, there did not seem to be any concrete evidence from this time that suggests the Templars were in league with Baphomet, further suggesting that those who confessed did so out of desperation to end their suffering.
Another idea proposes that the Templar Knights who were posted in the Crusader states had come to adopt Islamic doctrine into their own beliefs and either discovered a dual faith or had outright converted.
This would of course have been viewed as the utmost heresy in a time where Medieval Christians believed that the Muslims were idolaters and that the prophet Muhammed was a false prophet.
In fact, Muhammed would have been referred to as ‘Mahomet’ in Old French and by some, it was believed that the name Mahomet was at some point transformed into Baphomet. Mahomet would also become ‘mammet’ in old English and as one might imagine, it would become the definition of a false god.
It might also be the case that Baphomet had more Byzantine Greek influence and that the name Baphomet originated from the Greek name for Muhammed – ‘Moameth.’ This is further substantiated by the fact that the Templars were exposed to Greek culture in the first crusade and would have come to learn of Moameth and the sinister reputation he had amongst the contemporary Greeks.
Biblical scholar Hugh J Schonfield argues in his book The Essene Odyssey that the word Baphomet came about with the Atbash substitution cipher in mind—a complex system that replaces the first letter of the alphabet for the last, and the second for the second last and so on.
Using this system, the word Baphomet becomes ‘Shofya’ which can be interpreted as the name Sophia, meaning wisdom. With this, not only does Baphomet become a more androgynous figure as the name Sophia is adopted, but also comes to stand for sagacity and intelligence—elements that perhaps the Templars were keen to absorb.
Another idea regarding the Templars association with Baphomet comes from a belief that the Templars were Gnostics and thus, subscribed to polytheism.
Of course, Baphomet was thought to be one of these deities that they worshipped. Though given their secrecy it’s possible that this was kept under wraps to avoid public outcry and political admonishing.
Furthermore, some ideas—chiefly from Viennese Orientalist Jacob Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall—suggests that Baphomet was indeed an androgynous figure based on various stone antiquities that share the same name.
These Baphomets were thought to be hermaphrodites and possessed additional limbs or even features that were placed in unconventional places. Hammer-Purgstall argued that many of these stone ‘Baphomets’ were inscribed with Arabic, furthermore, suggesting an Islamic origin, but this link is hard to determine.
There are also claims by Hammer-Purgstall that the Templars carried these Baphomets in their luggage and that these were indeed articles that served as idols, but again, these claims are almost certainly born out of assumption.
Depiction of Baphomet — Baphomet Symbols
By the mid 19th century, Baphomet would become popularised by the French esotericist and poet Eliphas Levi who likened Baphomet to that of the Sabbatic Goat. In fact, in his book Dogma and Rituals of High Magic, he illustrated his idea of Baphomet that would become known as the Goat of Mendes.
It’s likely that this followed the account by Greek writer and geographer Herodotus, who spoke of the God of Mendes (Mendes being an Egyptian city) as having a goat’s face and a goat’s legs.
Levi depicts the deity as a winged humanoid goat that much like Hammer-Purgstall’s idea also possessed breasts and thus adopted a more androgynous form.
There was also a torch sported atop the goat’s head where the sign of a pentagram can also be found. Baphomet’s hands are also positioned to form the sign of the occult, according to Levi, with one hand pointing up to promote kindness and love and the other pointing down to promote judgement and limitation.
It was believed by Levi that the positioning of Baphomet’s hands promoted the perfect harmony between mercy and justice—one hand that expressed love and the other which expressed judgement.
One of his arms is female and the other is male, yet again incorporating the blend of both sexes and forming something of a representation for everyone in existence.
The torch positioned between his horns was thought to be either symbolic for intelligence or symbolic for the soul itself, which through Baphomet could elevate beyond the physical state.
Levi tells us himself in Dogma and Rituals of High Magic:
The depiction of Baphomet by Levi was also believed to have been a symbol for a more heretical tradition that existed outside of typical religious belief and that the symbol stood for the emancipation of humanity and perfect social order.
He would also come to speak of his own belief in the ‘astral light’ that shone from between the horns of Baphomet—that which was a magical light that promoted the progressive idea of blending religion and science. Or at least, advocated a social system that championed both religion and science without one impeding the other.
Why was a Goat used for Baphomet’s Face?
But many might be wondering why a goat was used for Baphomet’s face at all—other than the possible inspiration that Levi may have drawn from Herodotus.
Well, Herodotus did speak of goats being revered creatures in Egypt and that by one of his observations, he saw a woman having sex with one—thus was the prominence of the goat in the region of Mendes.
Furthermore, some goats that were worshipped were even believed to have been given ceremonial burials when they died, and that public mourning of the goat was not uncommon.
In Conclusion to Baphomet
Fans of Aleister Crowley might also be interested to know that the Occultist recognised Baphomet as the ‘hieroglyph of arcane perfection’ and that this deity reflected ourselves.
Baphomet would become an important figure within Crowley’s cult of Thelema in the early 20th century and he would also be recognised by Crowley’s writing as an androgynous being that stood for life and love.
As anyone who’s studied Crowley for more than a minute, you’ll know that sex magic played an integral role in his beliefs and according to Crowley, Baphomet was also symbolic of the ‘magical child’ that was produced through such sex magic.
With this in mind, it was believed by Crowley that Baphomet represented the convergence of opposites; especially in this instance where the magically infused child would be conceived through the physical act of sex. Both magic in the ritualistic copulation and the biological fusing of sperm and egg would in a sense become a representation of Baphomet, who resembled the opposites.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Baphomet has been addressed as a deity who marries up the opposite elements, for Levi himself in his illustration of the Goat of Mendes details him as having the Latin word Solve (meaning dissolve) on one arm and the Latin word Coagula, (meaning coagulate) on the other—yet again supporting this idea of two opposites coinciding.
Artwork Sources: Ryohei Totsuka.